Hunger Games – 8.7/10 / Catching Fire – 9/10 / Mockingjay Pt. 1 – 7.4/10 / Mockingjay Pt. 2 – 7.8/10
Set in the post-apocalyptic country of Panem, where every year each of the 12 Districts must offer up one girl and one boy to the Capitol for a collective fight to the death in the annual Hunger Games as punishment for a past rebellion. The first Hunger Games film follows Katniss Everdeen, a girl who volunteers as tribute when her little sister is chosen to participate in the Games, and Peeta Mellarck as they try to make it out alive.
*Possible Spoilers Ahead*
The Hunger Games (2012) – 8.7/10
The Hunger Games was one of the most acclaimed and bestselling book series by Suzanne Collins, so naturally there was immense hype when it was announced they would be adapting it into a movie. Through Gary Ross’ meticulous crafting and attention to the source material, spectacular performances especially from Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen and Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellarck, thrilling action sequences and a powerful thematically and emotionally-charged story, and deep reflections on humanity and society’s savage undertones, the end product is an amazing film that will undoubtedly become a loved Hollywood mega-series. There are a couple of flaws. One, there is a lot of use of shaky cam, particularly in the action sequences. I get that perhaps Ross was trying to make the action sequences feel more exciting with the fast movements of a handheld camera, but the end result is a scrambled, hard-to-see flurry of action sequences that would’ve been more effective shot normally. Also, the love scenes between Peeta and Katniss were a little sappy at times, dipping a little too far into the Twilight realm more than I would like but still overall overlookable. I wish there was a little more action in the movie, as the storytelling and pacing are great overall but can be slow at times, even more jarring when we’re suddenly thrown into a whirlwind of shaky cam blurry sequences. Overall though, there are extremely more pros than cons
Official CLC Score: 8.7/10
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – 9/10
After the events of the 74th Annual Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen is haunted by what she had to do to survive. Her and Peeta Mellarck must keep up the act of their romance, especially when President Snow shows up personally at her house to threaten her to quell the sparks of rebellion their berry-stunt started, on the customary Victory Tour. However, when the rebellion undertones are proving too strong to be quelled, President Snow and new Head Gamemaker Plutarch decide to try to eliminate them another way: by making the 75th Hunger Games consist of only past winners of the Games.
With how big of a success the first Hunger Games was both critically and commercially, there were big expectations for Catching Fire. I overall loved the first film, but Catching Fire is my favorite novel of the Hunger Games series, so I was hoping it would be better and that they would fix some of the problems I had with the first film. Well, I am delighted to say they did: Catching Fire is a masterpiece!
Even from the beginning of the film, the change in tone is noticeable and different, exuding a seriousness and darkness both in the mise-en-scene and storyline of Katniss being ashamed of what she had to do to survive in the Games and having PTSD, and President Snow threatening them to quell the flames of rebellion stirring in Panem after their act of defiance with the berries. The romantic scenes are also much less sappy, one of my main complaints from the first film, much due to the more serious tone and brilliant plot decision to make them have to act to be in love due to danger and threatening by Snow to kill their loved ones.
With that corrected and the more indifferent attitudes in acting from Katniss and Peeta towards each other, the story is allowed to breathe more and focus on the fascinating story of rebellion by the districts as it unfolds and the most exhilarating and shockingly abhorrent plot point that made the book such a work of art: The 75th hunger Games being a Quarter Quell where all the past winners, including Katniss and Peeta, must return to fight in the Games (breaking the promise the Capitol made to winners of past Games of a happy ending and that they’d never have to risk their lives again). This is the escalation that fans can only hope for in a sequel, with the 75th Hunger Games being like the last games but just on steroids with the more combat and strategy-skilled previous winners and even greater threats in the battlefield by the new Gamemaker, legendary actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman (who died during the series as his last role, RIP).
Let’s talk about the games: everything, from the setting of Tropical Rainforest to the grand-scaling of the dangers like poison gas and vicious baboon attacks, cinematography like beautiful sunrise beach-set scenes and dark moonlit rainforest nights, and the CGI especially in the baboons and tidal waves through the trees are all spectacular. Also,
Finally, the ending scene with Katniss discovering that the arena is a clock and shooting the arrow into the sky with the lightning to blow up the dome is beautifully done and 100% accurate to the novel. That would’ve been a far more effective ending with her being picked up by the plane as the fire burns around her and maybe with it being revealed there was a conspiracy to get her out as the symbol for the rebellion, but my only problem with the film is that it instead chooses to do this bizarre and awkward ending of Katniss just staring into the camera for a good 10 seconds after it’s revealed that District 12 was destroyed, a FAR more ineffective ending than either of the previous two but a mild set-back that can be ignored when taking into account the rest of the film.
Official CLC Score – 9/10
Mockingjay, Pt. 1 – 7.4/10
Most Memorable Moment: When the rebels attack and blow up the hydroelectric dam while singing “The Hanging Tree”
Pros: Respectable differentiation of type of film from the first two, encapsulating war-type rebellion and propaganda shots of the rebellion, characteristic strong performances from Jennifer Lawrence, shocking plot twist when it’s revealed Peeta was turned evil by the Capitol, beautiful soundtrack especially including “The Hanging Tree”, Glimpses of greatness including the rebels’ attack on the dam while singing The Hanging Tree, Thrilling ending with Peeta in the straightjacket as he’s turned against Katniss
Cons: Absence of a Hunger Games is painfully noticeable and contributing to a heavy lack of action, Katniss’ weird and annoying first refusing to be the Mockingjay because they didn’t save Peeta, Pacing way too slow, dull cinematography with the majority of the film taking place underground,
Official CLC Score: 7.4/10